In a country such as Fiji with a large population of very young children, good nutrition is vital. One place it can most effectively be taught is in early-childhood learning centres – kindergartens. This means the future teachers of very young children need to be made aware of what constitutes good nutrition and of how children and their parents can apply this information to their daily life.
The APTC has a key role in this, through its training programs for early-childhood teachers. Funded by the Australian Government, the APTC runs Children’s Services courses for a large number of early-childhood teachers, both those who are studying to take up Early Childhood Learning (ECL) as a career and those already working in the field who are eager to increase their skills and knowledge.
In Fiji, the APTC’s School of Hospitality and Community Services offers Children’s Services courses at its refurbished training centre in Suva, and at the APTC campus in Namaka on the west coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s most populous island. In both places good nutrition is an important unit in the course.
The course covers a lot on nutrition, including from five different aspects:
- Planning suitable food and drink combinations for children and encouraging children to develop healthy eating habits
- The ways in which adults such as teachers and parents can be good role models for children, and themselves make healthy food choices
- The means by which children and families can be encouraged to eat healthily and, just as importantly, practise physical activity for healthy growth and development (is in line with the Fiji Ministry of Health’s Support Fiji initiative)
- Details of the various food groups, their value in a balanced diet and the planning of menus for children to ensure balanced dietary requirements, and
- The problem of rising obesity in some young children, and the way to combat this through better food choices and increased activity.
Early-learning students took advantage of Fiji’s Early Childhood Week recently to take their message about good nutrition out into the community. During the week’s events in Nawaka village on the eastern edge of Nadi the students set up a ‘play and information’ tent and handed out brochures to parents about good nutrition for their children. Students and children played together with toys the students had either made or borrowed from APTC’s toy library.
The APTC students’ and trainers’ contribution to Early Childhood Week in Fiji clearly made groups of parents and others (who obviously want to do the best for their children but are not themselves dieticians) aware of which foods, among those available in Fiji, are best for young children’s healthy nutrition. It’s a good example of how the APTC, committed to bringing benefit to the countries in which it operates, can take its message beyond the formal confines of classroom teaching to where the people really are.
Read the full blog posted by Diana Hurford and Kerry Kirk, APTC Trainers for Children Services at AusAID’s blog - "Engage" - Healthy nutrition for children: a Fijian experience in teacher training